After months of lockdown, businesses and their employees open their doors to customers. The U.S department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has adopted revised polices for enforcing OSHA’s requirements in an effort to prevent and reduce the further transmission of the coronavirus in the workplace. OSHA has also adopted new standards for recording workplace illnesses related to, or caused by, the coronavirus.
First, OSHA will continue to utilize all enforcement tools as they prioritize COVID-19 inspections and increase overall workplace inspections. In many categories of the workplace, the risk of transmission is lower and personal protective equipment is more available.
Second, Under OSHA’s new recordkeeping requirements, employers are responsible for recording cases of coronavirus if the following has occurred:
- There has been a confirmed case of COVID-19
- The case has been defined work-related by 29 CFR 1904.5 standards
- One or more of the general recording criteria in 29 CRF1904.7 has been met, such as medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work.
Considering how COVID-19 spreads in the community, employees are exposed to the virus in and out of the workplace. In many instances, it will be difficult to determine if a coronavirus illness is work-related. In cases of work-related illnesses, Employers and Safety Professionals must rely on their experience and the evidence that is available to determine if a case is work-related.
Given the size of some companies and their lack of expertise in the areas of employee privacy; small companies are not equipped to afford large medical expenses. Small companies are therefore, not expected to take on massive medical inquiries. When presented with cases of COVID-19, employers must follow employee privacy guidelines, especially in regard to employee activities outside the workplace and inquiries into how the employee may have contracted the COVID-19 illness.
In cases were employers have 10 or fewer employees in industries with low hazards, the standard has not changed. Employers will not be required to record the incident. Cases of COVID-19 illnesses that result in a fatality or an employee in-patient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye will have to be reported. (29 CFR 1904.1 (a)(1))
The founding of the Occupational Safety and health Administration was to ensure that employers were providing a safe workplace for men and women. Through the enforcement and setting of standards in the different industries, OSHA has helped employers to achieve safe working conditions by providing training and additional resources. For additional information regarding COVID-19 and other work-related standards, please contact the CDC.gov and OSHA.gov.